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Lauren Smoker, Media Relations
Saint Joseph Mercy Health System

Groundbreaking Heart Valve Replacement Procedure Performed at St. Joe
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Non-surgical option offering new hope for inoperable patients needing heart surgery

This week, a team of doctors at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor worked together to perform a new procedure – one that will offer adult patients with severe aortic valve stenosis a new option for heart valve treatment. St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor is one of five hospitals in Michigan offering this FDA-approved procedure.

The doctors used the Edwards SAPIEN Valve, which is the first and only transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) therapy to receive approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Edwards Valve received approval by the FDA in 2011 and is a therapy for patients with severe symptomatic native aortic valve stenosis who have been determined by a cardiac surgeon to be inoperable for open-heart surgery to repair the valve. It is currently a therapy only for the treatment of adult patients who are not candidates for traditional open-heart surgery.

“This is a game changer for adult patients who have valve disease but are not candidates for surgery,” says Mary Poskie, executive director of cardiovascular services for Michigan Heart at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. “We are so proud to have been selected through a rigorous review process to offer the Edwards Valve at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. We’re giving patients a second chance when they may have been out of options.”

Instead of open-heart surgery to replace or fix a diseased heart valve, the procedure enables doctors to place a collapsible aortic heart valve into the body via a catheter that is inserted through a small incision at the top of the leg, and threaded up to the heart.

A multi-disciplinary heart team approach is essential to ensuring optimal patient outcomes in TAVR. The partnership between the cardiothoracic surgeon and interventional cardiologist establishes the core of the TAVR heart team. St. Joseph Mercy doctors traveled together for a comprehensive training program that includes procedure and complication management; and they performed the first procedures this week.

“The patients did extremely well with the procedure and all indicators for a full recovery are excellent,” explains cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Szyniszewski, medical director of the catheterization laboratory and physician lead for the Edwards Valve procedure at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. “We are very pleased with the initial outcomes and will be performing these procedures on a regular basis.”

Aortic Stenosis (AS) is a serious health concern for older adults, with debilitating symptoms that include: Severe shortness of breath leading to gasping – even at rest; chest pain or tightness; fainting; extreme fatigue; lightheadedness / dizziness; difficulty exercising; and rapid or irregular heartbeat.

While up to 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from AS, approximately 500,000 within this group of patients suffer from severe AS, and an estimated 250,000 patients with severe AS are symptomatic. Severe AS usually occurs in patients older than 75 years of age. Some patients with severe AS are not candidates for open-heart surgery and the Edwards Valve therapy is their only treatment option.

Studies show that without an aortic valve replacement, 50 percent of patients with severe AS will not survive more than an average of two years after the onset of symptoms.

“This is a very serious disease and the Edwards Valve is offering new hope and options for patients who have been suffering with the debilitating symptoms of aortic stenosis, and for whom we are unable to offer conventional open heart surgery,” shares Dr. Andrew Pruitt, cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.

Prior to the advent of TAVR, there was no definitive treatment option available for inoperable patients, as these patients are unable to undergo surgical aortic valve replacement – the gold standard treatment for most adult patients with severe AS.

For more information about this procedure, please visit call 734-712-8000.